Why would anyone miss the Cold War? After all, it was punctuated by frequent not-so-little hot wars, most obviously in Korea and Vietnam, and there was that one moment, the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the Cold War nearly boiled over. Moreover, the Communist part of the world, the “Second World” as it came to be known, had to endure four decades of ruthless oppression.
Still, the Cold War did offer one thing, and that was order. The nations of the Western Alliance under American hegemony, the “First World”, enjoyed liberty, order and prosperity—in other words, the essence of Locke, Hobbes and Adam Smith. As for the Soviet bloc, it experienced only Hobbes. As anyone who has lived amidst anarchy knows, however desirable liberty is, order is absolutely essential, even if it requires a Hobbesian despot to ensure it. The famous phrase of the American Declaration of Independence—“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—prioritizes these three goods in precisely the right sequence. In addition to imposing order within their respective First and Second Worlds, both superpowers propped up a variety of mostly authoritarian client-states in much of the Third World that constituted an order of sorts within their own regions and countries.
Even after the end of the Cold War and the end of the Soviet superpower, the first two American Presidents of the new era each recognized the importance of order. The elder George Bush spoke of a “New World Order” and Bill Clinton promised that “globalization” and the “Washington Consensus” would somehow bring that order into being. But that was then, and this is now. What in the world, and especially what for us in the West (if that ever malleable term still has any meaning), is the state of order today, almost two decades after the end of the Cold War world order?
Whether it turns out to be right or wrong, most agree that the biggest threat to order now comes from the growing and spreading capabilities of global networks of Islamist terrorists, some of which are abetted or supported by failing or malicious states. If indeed, as most also agree, there is some unknown but growing probability that one or more of these networks will acquire some kind of weapon of mass destruction, then that threat is very big indeed. President George W. Bush has not failed as a matter of accuracy to speak repeatedly of this threat, even if the tactfulness of his so doing is open to question. But President Bush was wrong to choose a war in Iraq as part of the U.S. response to that threat. Clearly, the Iraq war has made the Islamist threat even greater than it would have otherwise been. With “solutions” like this one, we barely need problems.
Models of Order
When we contemplate today the problem of order, we run up against certain limits on our historical imagination. There have been but a finite number of global state systems, and none of them seems applicable today.
There is the “one gun” system, achievable in theory either through the assertion of a fully global imperium—one big Hobbesian Leviathan—or through the voluntary advent of world government. The former is now impossible, both because of the character of the only candidate for the job and because of the galloping politicization of much of the planet. The latter is impossible, too, for those and also other reasons.
There have been uncoordinated balances of power of varying dimensions—systems of order composed of “multiple guns” balanced against one another and made as stable as they ever are by dint of the precautionary principle as applied to security risks. Sometimes balances have been made up of many guns and have been rendered stable partly on account of the inability of political units to organize themselves for expansion as opposed to defense. Much of medieval Europe, notably the German-speaking areas, which were divided into dozens of principalities, resembled such an uncoordinated balance-of-power order. The Cold War, too, in its own way, did the same with but two as opposed to many guns. Latter-day Cold War efforts to coordinate the balance through arms control negotiations and other means of statecraft may or may not have helped stabilize the system; the Soviet Union collapsed before we could find out for sure.
An uncoordinated balance of power may be available by default today, but it is hardly desirable. There are too many weak states, too many violent sub-state groups, and too much dangerous technology on the loose for that.
The world has also experienced coordinated forms of the balance of power, most famously the Concert of Europe after the Congress of Vienna. This was an order defined not by one gun or by many uncoordinated guns but by more or less deliberately balanced guns—few big guns following a few basic rules of conduct. Concert of power systems did not obviate violence, but they did restrain hegemonic war for as long as they endured.
Forming a new great power concert is an idea that has been bandied about in recent years, and not without some good reason. But a new concert cannot resemble those we know from the historical record. In previous concerts, power was distributed widely if not equally, but the current status of the United States as primus inter pares makes this impossible.
So we cannot build an order based on one gun, many balanced guns or relatively few big guns. Yet we certainly need an order of some kind. This is clear simply by reviewing the March/April 2007 issue of this magazine, where several generic problems posed to international order were spelled out: William H. McNeill noted the implications of newly rising disorderly cities, Jakub Grygiel discussed the return of turbulent frontiers, and Steven David analyzed the growing prospect of civil wars. These are all systemic issues having little directly to do with the classical kinds of strategic calculations undertaken by nation-state leaderships. They suggest instead a crisis of the nation-state itself, which is why another essay in the same issue, by Anna Simons and her colleagues, focused on the re-strengthening of sovereignty to deal with these and other threats to global order.
This solution makes a certain historical sense. We have seen before the challenge to order posed by the rapid creation of very large and initially very disorderly cities, particularly in the industrializing nations of 19th-century Europe. Here, the solution was the strong national state. A national state governed both the large cities and the broad countryside. If necessary, it could bring in an army composed of soldiers from the rural provinces to put down a disorderly urban population, and national governments on the Continent often did so. The most famous example was the suppression of the Paris Commune by the Third Republic’s national guard in 1871. Many of the urban revolts that together comprised the Revolution of 1848 were also put down in this way (as in Vienna and Berlin). By the end of the 19th century, the problem of disorderly cities had largely disappeared.
We have also seen before the problem posed to order by turbulent frontiers—again in the 19th century, but mainly in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Here, the strong colonial empire, one based upon a metropole that was itself a strong national state, was the solution. By the end of the 19th century, when much of the globe had been parceled out to about eight such colonial empires, the problem of turbulent frontiers had largely disappeared.
We have also seen before the problem posed to order by civil wars, as in Spain, China and Indochina in the 20th century. Here, the wars continued until one side fought its way to total victory and imposed upon everyone else a new Leviathan, a strong sovereign state with a monopoly of the legitimate use of force.
Putting together the solutions to these three problems as they have evolved in recent centuries—urban disorders, turbulent frontiers and civil wars—we can see that a strong state has been central to each solution. The spread of such states, and of their territorial sway, throughout much of the globe in the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the basis of the old world order that existed on the eve of World War I.
Of course, these states were so strong that most of them were able to go to war with each other in 1914. Indeed, they were so strong that they were able to sustain enough national cohesion to fight a devastating war of attrition for years, taking about forty million lives before some of them collapsed—first Czarist Russia, then Ottoman Turkey and Habsburg Austria-Hungary. States strong enough to solve the three problems of order at home and on the periphery turned out also to be strong enough to produce unprecedented disorder in great power politics.
After the war, however, the old order was largely re-established, albeit in a looser fashion at the edges, especially in the regions where great powers had once kept order but no longer existed to do so. Indeed, the old order was re-established after the even more catastrophic World War II, which claimed about 72 million lives. And the Cold War world order was in many ways also a variation on that old order, looser still because of the devolution of other great-power empires, but not so loose as to threaten chaos or conduce to another round of general great power warfare.
Today, however, urban/demographic and migratory chaos is back, frontiers are increasingly turbulent as state authority weakens in dozens of countries, and the incidence of civil disorder and warfare increases. And all this is going on at a time when global networks of Islamist terrorists are emerging to thrive in such conditions. We now live in a world of far more failed and failing states than of strong ones. So the two questions we need to ask ourselves are these: What is the prospect for constructing stronger states based on law within? And what is the prospect for organizing such states to produce regional order without? These questions of law and order are particularly germane to the Muslim world, where all three problems—and Islamist terrorists, too—are so prevalent.
A Bitter Truth
Americans naturally prefer that the strong states the world needs also be democratic ones of which we approve. We deeply desire that Hobbes be alloyed with Jefferson. Our first question, then, concerns where, if indeed at all, conditions now exist for the establishment of new strong states that are also democratic states.
By any reasonable measure the prospects for finding such conditions are bleak. It is proving difficult enough to consolidate the ten or so new democracies in post-Communist eastern and central Europe and the newer democracies in East Asia, and to stabilize democratic progress in much of Latin America. Another different but critical task is to strengthen the immense but flawed democracy that is India. In other areas, however, few or none of the normal economic, social and cultural prerequisites for stable democracy can be found. That includes Russia and the post-Soviet Caucasus and Central Asia, most of sub-Saharan Africa, and it includes nearly all of the Arab world, as well.
If prospects for additional democratic regimes are bleak, what about prospects for additional liberal ones? Here we make a familiar, if still underappreciated, distinction between the ways nations elect their leaders and the ways they actually govern themselves, with a liberal regime being one with some kind of rule of law, a strong civil society and a generally free press. Here we see promise in a very important country indeed: China. If the Chinese business class continues its robust development, it may be able to bring about the step-by-step construction of liberal laws and institutions. But again, in the part of the world we care most about for practical reasons, the Arab world and its sprawling Muslim periphery, the emergence of strong liberal institutions is barely more likely than the consolidation of democratic ones.
Clearly, any stable world order requires strong states as its constituent parts, and if many parts of the world are unlikely to produce strong states that are also democratic states, and are only a little more likely to produce strong states that are also liberal states, then what kind of strong states can they produce? More specifically, what kind of strong states are Muslim-majority states, and particularly Arab states, able to produce so that sovereign states can be held responsible for their actions and for the actions of the people (including Islamists) who live within them?
As noted, most of the countries in the vast Muslim Crescent possess few or none of the normal prerequisites for democratic regimes, or even for liberal ones. They lack experience with the equality principle, believing in a range of “natural” hierarchies instead. They lack a tradition of political pluralism and of a “loyal opposition” because the ultimate source of law and political authority is taken to be extrinsic to society rather than intrinsic—infallible God and His interpreters rather than councils of mere mortals. And they remain mostly communal, endogamous societies in which the notion of individual agency is very weak. Show me someone who thinks a liberal democracy can be built within a few years in a society that rejects the equality principle, has not internalized the concept of political pluralism, and has little notion of individual agency, and I’ll show you a well-intentioned (usually American) imbecile.
This is a controversial position these days in the era of the Freedom Agenda (or what’s left of it). One is even liable to be accused of the soft bigotry of low expectations. But the Freedom Agenda is an example of faith-based national strategy, when what we need is the reality-based sort. In any event, it seems clear enough that for the foreseeable future, the choice for many Muslim-majority states and most Arab ones, and our choice for them, will be limited to either an authoritarian state or not much of a state at all—whether that condition be called a failed state, a turbulent frontier, civil disorder or simply anarchy.
Of course, the mere fact that a state is authoritarian is not enough to make it a strong state. It is true what American promoters of democratization so often profess: Established democracies with deep roots widely spread throughout society, such as the democracies of the West, are usually the strongest states of all. To be a strong state, an authoritarian state must also be grounded in some kind of solid social base. It is best if that base is something like a dominant economic class (ideally, a large middle class), but it can also be a majority ethnic group. Either one will tend to be enthusiastic about supporting the authoritarian state if it is repressing and containing some other economic class or ethnic group that threatens the dominant one. This was the case in much of Eastern Europe between the two world wars and in Franco’s Spain after the Spanish Civil War.
In the Muslim world, however, particularly in its Arab core, even efforts to create authoritarian or totalitarian states have only rarely given rise to a strong state with roots in a deep social base. For several decades after World War II, as European power receded from the Near East, many of the authoritarian states of the Muslim world tried to legitimate themselves with European-imported ideologies that were purportedly nationalist or socialist (as in the Arab nationalism and “Arab Socialism” of Nasser’s Egypt) or even national socialist (as in the Ba‘ath regimes of Iraq and Syria). Most of the “modern” non-monarchical Arab regimes modeled their state apparatus after that of the Soviet Union.
But these Middle Eastern states were parodies of their European models, often grotesquely so. In any event, they were not authentic: Nearly all of them were either overtly or covertly military regimes rather than true party-states, and they lacked deep and widespread roots within their majority Muslim societies. Like their European models, their failures eventually became manifest. Few of these regimes have been literally overthrown and replaced, as in Iraq, but all have become ideologically denatured and delegitimated. The time of the national state in the Muslim world has come and gone.
There are, however, two plausible alternatives: the religious state and the ethnic or tribal state. Iran is the archetypal example of a Muslim religious state, in its case the Shi‘i version of Islam. The very name of the state, the Islamic Republic of Iran, testifies to its religious identity. Other Muslim states have also put the word “Islamic” in their official names (most notably, Sudan and Pakistan). In those cases, however, it is the Sunni version of Islam, and thus far these do not have the depth and strength of the Iranian one. Only Saudi Arabia has that distinction in the Sunni world. However, if the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist movement, were to take power in countries where it has been strong, such as Egypt and Syria, it could probably establish a strong religious state comparable to that of Iran.
Will strong Islamic religious states in places like Egypt and perhaps Algeria make a positive contribution to global order? Hitherto, the U.S. government has never thought so, and the Bush Administration’s suspicions and hostility toward Iran validate and extend this judgment. Islamic religious states obviously may incline to support Islamist terrorist networks, just as Iran helped create and support Hizballah. On the other hand, an Islamic religious state is likely to have a broad ideological legitimation and a deep social base—that is, it is likely to be a strong state that can be held responsible for its actions and for the actions of the people, including Islamists, who live within it.
What of the ethnic or tribal option? In appearance, a common Islamic faith unites Muslim countries; the ideal of Islam is that the Muslim world forms one great Islamic community or nation, known as the umma. In reality, however, this appearance of Islamic unity lies atop a myriad of ethnic and tribal divisions that existed before Islam (even in Muhammad’s own Arabia), and which have never been eliminated by Islam. Indeed, one might interpret the Muslim world’s intense proclamation of religious unity as rhetorical compensation for persistent conflict among its multitude of ethnic communities and tribes.
Almost all Muslim countries are multi-ethnic or multi-tribal societies, usually composed of one large ethnic community orbited by several smaller ones. Often, each ethnic community is concentrated in a particular region of the country. The actual basis for most political behavior in Muslim countries is the ethnic or tribal community; most people act to preserve or promote the interests of their own ethnic community or tribe against the interests of others. Left alone, these communities would war with each other despite the purported unity of Islam. Today we see a full-fledged version of the ethnic sort in Sudan, and a robust version of the tribal sort in Somalia.
In most cases, one ethnic community imposes a peace of sorts on the others and then becomes strong enough to form (or inherit) a state. Given the condition of persistent and pervasive ethnic and tribal conflict, this state will be authoritarian—a Hobbesian Leviathan. The pattern of a uni-ethnic state ruling over a multi-ethnic or multi-tribal society characterized Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, with the Sunni Arabs dominating the other ethnic groups. Similarly the Taliban regime in Afghanistan represented the domination of the Pashtuns—a plurality but not a majority—over other ethnic groups. This pattern also exists in contemporary Iran, Syria and Sudan, and some version of it exists in Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Algeria and many other Muslim countries as well. When the ruling community is especially small, it often compensates for weakness in numbers by extreme brutality in its repressive measures (as in Ba‘athi Iraq and Syria). In any case, the pattern is that the multi-ethnic society is held both together and down by a uni-ethnic state, particularly by its security apparatus.
These Muslim political systems are thus in effect small multinational empires. Indeed, most are governed in ways similar to those that the Ottomans used to govern their empire. The Ottoman Turks provided the state or “ruling institution” that kept a wide variety of ethnic communities or “millets” (some Muslim, some non-Muslim) operating within one imperial system. A millet often served a distinct economic or social function: The function of the Ottoman Turks was to rule over them all. The Ottoman Empire ended more than eighty years ago, but its basic pattern lives on in many contemporary Muslim countries, which remain miniature and stunted versions of the old Ottoman imperial system—with the state security apparatus playing the ruling-institution role. The members of the different ethnic communities under the ruling state do not see themselves as citizens who enjoy equal rights within one homogeneous nation. Instead, they see themselves as distinct tribes, sects or ethnic groups, at most a collection of nations in a nation but not of it.
This is hardly a promising basis for either a viable democracy or a viable liberal state. It is hardly a certain basis for even a strong authoritarian state. However, other than the religious state, this sort of mini-imperial ethnic state is the strongest state the Muslim world is likely to construct in the foreseeable future. And it will usually be strong enough to hold it responsible for its actions and for the actions of the people who live within it. As such, it can make an essential contribution to global order, whatever its aesthetic deficiencies may be in the eyes of Americans.
Loyal Allies and Rogue Ethnics
The European empires in the Muslim world often practiced a variation on the Ottoman system. But rather than governing a millet system from within and above a Muslim entity, they constructed divide-and-rule systems for non-Muslims (themselves) to control Muslims. Thus the British (in Iraq, Jordan and Egypt) and the French (in Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco) established their own ruling institutions almost invariably based upon one leading local ethnic community that assumed the coveted role of the imperial power’s “most loyal ally.” The loyal ethnic community, sometimes a majority community but sometimes not, was backed by the reliable aid and advice of the imperial power, and with that aid and advice governed itself and other local groups. The loyal ally ruled directly, the imperial power ruled indirectly through it.
The formula of “indirect rule” varied from place to place. The French style differed some from the British (but of course!). Still, all variations had plenty in common. For example, if the local ethnic community became strong enough to rule on its own, it would cease to be loyal. Conversely, if the community became too weak to govern effectively, it would require continuous and costly military intervention from the imperial power and would cease to be useful. Ideally, the loyal ally had to be strong enough to rule directly, but weak enough to be dependent upon the imperial power. To keep the loyal ethnic community in just the right balance of capacity and dependence required a great deal of intelligence—in every sense of the word—on the part of the imperial power, particularly on the part of its officials on the local scene.
The loyal ethnic community often supplied the bulk of the troops for the imperial army in the country. These ethnic troops could be counted upon to put down uprisings from other ethnic groups or religious sects when it was necessary to do so. It was even better if the loyal ethnic community had something of a warrior tradition, what the British called a “martial people.” The Druse, for example, fit that bill for the French in Syria to a tee. In any event, the imperial formula of indirect rule had always to be joined with the even more fundamental and ancient imperial formula of “divide and rule.”
Indirect rule and the tactics of divide-and-rule not only took intelligence and skill; they took tenacity and patience. While there were particular ethnic communities that served as loyal allies of imperial powers in imposing order upon disorderly cities and turbulent frontiers, there were also particular ethnic communities that always seemed to be in opposition to the imperial order, or, indeed, to any order other than their own peculiar one. The British called these “unruly peoples.” The most notorious of these unruly peoples—indeed, the British called them “ungovernable”—were the Pashtuns (then called the Pathans), who inhabited both the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan and the Northwest Frontier Province of British India. And so the Pashtuns have remained, right down to the present day. We might now call them a rogue people.
They have been a rogue people at great cost to the rest of the world. The Pashtuns are virtually the only ethnic community in Afghanistan that supports the Taliban, and indeed virtually everyone in the Taliban is a Pashtun. It was, of course, the Taliban regime and therefore the Pashtun community that hosted and protected al-Qaeda before the American invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, and it is the Pashtun community in the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan that hosts and protects al-Qaeda there today.
Like many close-knit ethnic or tribal communities, the Pashtuns have an intense sense of communal identity and almost no sense of an individual one. They also naturally have an intense sense of their enemies’ communal identities, including their collective guilt. It is impossible to deal with the Pashtuns as individuals, responding to calculations of individual benefits and costs. This is why, after more than five years, no one has stepped forward to turn in Osama bin Laden or Mullah Mohammed Omar (the leader of the Taliban), even though the United States has offered a $25 million reward for each. The only way to deal with the Pashtuns is the way they deal with themselves and with everyone else, as a community that is capable of both collective honor and guilt.
Like the Pashtuns of Afghanistan, the Sunni Arabs of Iraq long dominated and abused other ethnic communities. Because of their history of brutal oppression of both the Shi‘a Arabs and the Kurds of Iraq, and because of their current support of insurgent attacks upon these communities, the Sunni Arabs have much to answer for. Since they have always comprised a rather small minority (about 15–20 percent of the total population of Iraq), any regime they created had to be an authoritarian one. Moreover, the Sunni regime compensated for its especially small base by employing especially brutal methods against the other communities. Successive Sunni regimes became steadily more severe, leading to the brutal rule of the Ba‘ath Party and culminating in the ferocious institutionalized sadism of Saddam Hussein.
It just so happens that the United States today finds itself entangled with both of these rogue peoples: Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Sunni Arabs in Iraq. This might be just a coincidence, but it does not matter. Just as true and far more significant, the United States has failed to cultivate many reliable loyal allies. Many of the allies we do have are not particularly reliable, as Saudi diplomacy has shown in recent months, and some of the allies who have proved reasonably loyal, as with the Hashemites in Jordan, are not particularly reliable because they are not very strong.
We know already that it is not possible for the United States to pick a ready-made global order model from the historical samples. Similarly, the United States cannot do either what the Ottomans once did to control this part of the world or what the British and the French did after World War I. America can never adopt an Ottoman millet model because it lacks the legitimacy of being Muslim. The British and the French really only had to worry about internal control of their colonies and mandates, not about them attacking each other. Those were times, too, of populations more passive politically and accustomed to being told what to do by viziers and the clerics working for them. Any American strategy to sire strong states in the Muslim world must worry about things the British and French never dreamed of: the spread of weapons of mass destruction, client states able and sometimes willing to fight each other, and perhaps even the decay of territorial frontiers fixed by the British and French after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
So what options are left to American strategists? The key to any attempt at managing this part of the world is to focus on encouraging strong states, meaning, for all practical purposes, authoritarian states with the broadest possible social base. We must avoid illusions of democratization, especially in multi-ethnic states where “democracy” will translate more often than not into civil war, but we must also stop supporting highly erratic despots who are isolated from their own people. Let the Iraqi example demonstrate the point.
For many reasons, some based upon American ideals and some based upon strategic calculations and economic interests involving the Sunni regimes of the Persian Gulf oil producers, the Bush Administration chose not to crush the Sunni Arab community of Iraq, but to try to co-opt and even appease it. The result has been a continuing failure to subdue the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, including its al-Qaeda elements. However, in the southern and central regions of Iraq, including Baghdad, the Shi‘a militias and the Shi‘a-dominated units in the Iraqi army and police were willing and able to do so, if the United States had allowed it. Similarly, in the northern region of Iraq, including the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, the Kurdish militias, already the equivalent of a Kurdish army, were willing and able to do the same. The long-term security of the United States would have been best protected with the dramatic and decisive defeat of the Sunni insurgents and the profound and permanent demoralization of their Sunni supporters both inside and outside of Iraq.
Indeed, it remains the case that the only practical way to stabilize Iraq and enable a strong state to emerge that U.S. forces do not have to protect from its own people is to facilitate the emergence of a regime with the deepest available social base. That would be an authoritarian Shi‘a regime allied with the Kurds. That is not just the best U.S. option to achieve a less than ignominious departure from Iraq. It is the only available option.
So much for what the United States can do inside the Middle East and its majority-Muslim periphery. What can it do on the larger stage of global order-making?
As we have seen, none of the historical models fits the U.S. predicament. We cannot dominate imperiously, we cannot flee the scene into isolation, and we cannot be one of a small number of relative equals in a concert. We can and must, however, lead what, for lack of a better term we can call a “weighted concert.” We need to be a kind of “network administrator” of significant strategic nodes. We need help to ensure our own security, and we can find it best in other major countries that naturally share our major strategic interests.
As it happens, there are, even now, two very important states that take very seriously the problem of order among the Muslim communities who live within them, as well as among Muslims states abroad. These are Russia and India.
In addition to dealing with its large number of internal Muslims, Russia also has a good deal of experience with the problem of order within its “near abroad”, particularly the Muslim and former Soviet republics of Central Asia, plus Azerbaijan. American human rights activists have an ideological interest in condemning Russia for its violations of human rights, especially within Muslim Chechnya. In addition, some American businessmen have an economic interest in containing Russian access to oil and gas within Central Asia and Azerbaijan. Together, these human rights activists and businessmen comprise their own grand coalition to constantly berate Russia and the government of President Vladimir Putin for its use of repressive measures against Muslims at home and its support of authoritarian regimes in the Muslim near abroad. Nonetheless, the interests of the large majority of American citizens—the broadest American interest—with respect to Russia and Muslims is rather different. The true American interest is in its own security against transnational Islamist terrorists, an interest America shares in common with Russia, and even with Mr. Putin.
With its vast Muslim population of 130 million, India has had ample and generally successful experience with the problem of maintaining law and order invoving an internal Muslim community. In its ongoing Islamist insurgency in Kashmir, India has also had ample and often painful experience with this problem—a sort of Indian “near abroad.” India certainly is a willing ally in a grand coalition against Islamist terrorists, so long as we do not insist on formally calling them an ally.
India’s biggest contribution could issue from any future disintegration of Pakistan. This state has always been an artificial and brittle one, and in many areas—most obviously, in the Northwest Frontier Province, the autonomous tribal areas, and, increasingly, in Baluchistan, as well—it is a failing one. With a strong Islamist presence in the country and even in the military, Pakistan could one day become an Islamist state already possessing nuclear weapons. An Islamist Pakistan, perhaps with al-Qaeda operating on its territory, would probably be the most dangerous state in the world, a rogue state in the fullest sense of the term.
If the United States should ever determine that this state had to be put to an end, India would be the best ally to help do it—to “crack the Paks”, as it were. The ruins of this artificial country would produce four or five separate ethnic provinces, each of which could be reconstructed and ordered by a new Indian Raj with a mixture of direct and indirect rule—in a way not unlike the British Raj that once ruled these very same provinces.
When Americans turn their attention to world affairs, they evince a wide variety of interests—in the global economy, in universal human rights, in the security of ancestral homelands or particular favorite allies, and so forth. However, there is one fundamental and essential American interest, and that is in the establishment—in many senses the re-establishment—of a global regime of “internal” law and “external” order.
The United States cannot establish this regime on its own. There cannot be one American empire, one American Leviathan; but the United States can take the lead in composing and orchestrating a grand concert of many Leviathans, most of which will be strong states capable of imposing order on their own countries and their local areas. A few—Russia, India and perhaps China—can also do much to bring order to their own regional spheres of influence. They would be regional hegemons, practicing their own versions of indirect rule and divide-and-rule. But the United States would be the global hegemon of all the other hegemons—in effect, the network administrator by general agreement of the world’s strategic nodes.
The United States can also be persistent (it would also have to be wise) in pressing strong local states and even regional hegemons to steadily add to the rule of law within their particular forms of order. In doing so, U.S. leaders would be laying the foundations for adding a genuine civilization to their order, as well. The grand goal of American strategy should be a world of strong states, each ensuring for its people the benefits of order, law and civilization—of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But the first of these, as it has always been and always will be, is order, for it is order that preserves life itself.